There’s no shortage of mobile applications that allow shoppers to scan product bar codes and retrieve product information, with eBay’s RedLaser and Amazon.com’s mobile app two of the most readily that come to mind.
But Seattle startup Decide.com — which launched its consumer electronics shopping service earlier this year — thinks it has a twist on those popular apps. Today, the company is rolling out what it describes as a “crystal ball” for shoppers, helping them decide on whether they should buy a new laptop, TV or set of headphones at the big box retailer, the corner electronics store or at a cheaper location online.
“One of the scenarios that we’ve heard over and over again was: ‘Hey, I am just terrified when I walk into a Best Buy and I am staring at a wall of TVs,'” said Fridgen, adding that many people are afraid they’ll buy the wrong model or overpay.
With the Decide app, Fridgen said that shoppers can research products in a matter of seconds and quickly discover if there is a more affordable model located at a nearby store or online.
“On its own, this is a tool to compare online and nearby pricing head-to-head, apples to apples, with tax and shipping,” said Fridgen.
Best Buy offers their own free mobile app, which showcases reviews and also allows in-store product scanning. But, Fridgen said, the app does not show competitive prices at nearby stores.
“Like every other shopping app, if you scan the QR code at all, it will take you right back to the Best Buy site, which basically tells you what you already know,” Fridgen says.
In the case of the Decide.com app, Fridgen said they will show the lowest available price online and compare that to what you will find in local brick-and-mortar stores. That means someone thinking about buying a digital camera at Best Buy could possibly find a better deal at Fry’s or Camera World or Amazon.com.
Oftentimes, Fridgen said that sales professionals on the retail floor will negotiate with shoppers if they find a better price online. And the company notes that about 70 percent of smartphone users are now consulting their mobile phones before making a purchase.
In addition to pricing information, Fridgen said that they will instruct shoppers whether new models will be released in the coming days or weeks or if cheaper versions of new products are available.
Fridgen said there are probably a dozen or more mobile apps that have bar code scanning capabilities, but that feature in and of itself isn’t really novel anymore. Now, consumers want more information.
“We are at a point here where people are using these devices in-store to negotiate, or decide to buy offline or online,” said Fridgen.
Decide.com raised $6 million from Maveron, Madrona, early Google investor and former Amazon.com executive Ram Shriram; former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford and former Farecast CEO Hugh Crean. It was developed by the team that created Farecast, the online travel service that instructed consumers on the best time to buy airline tickets. Farecast was purchased by Microsoft for $115 million.